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Music Review : Salonen Returns To Philharmonic

December 07, 1985|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

An important landmark, the 21st anniversary of the opening of the Pavilion of the Music Center, went unobserved at Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts this week. At least, no observance of the anniversary materialized at the Thursday performance, when guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen led a generous agenda devoted to music by Berg, Mozart, Schubert and Carl Nielsen.

It was a rambling program, but it concluded strongly in a dramatic performance of Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable." Here, the young Finnish conductor reestablished his rapport with our orchestra and his authority as a podium personality of reliable craft and fertile musical imagination.

Some of the orchestral playing, as in the closing movements, emerged less than perfectly neat, but its thrust and direction always served the composer. And Salonen avoided the empty rhetoric some conductors bring to this challenge; the piece spoke, and eloquently.

The miscalculation on this program proved to be the length of the first half, which offered Berg's Three Pieces, Opus 6, Schubert's Rondo in A, in which violinist Pinchas Zukerman was soloist, and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, where Zukerman was joined by the Philharmonic's principal violist, Heiichiro Ohyama.

Add to this the taking of an encore by the soloists--the slow movement from a Mozart duo--and you have an abundance of riches, such an abundance that a number of patrons chose to leave the premises after the late-arriving intermission.

Still there was much to admire in this long first half. Salonen dealt convincingly with Berg's complicated lines and dense textures, and led the orchestra unerringly through its thickets of mixed emotions. Then, he provided his soloists with affectionate readings of the Schubert and Mozart works.

Though he sometimes distracts the listener with visible and audible foot-tapping Zukerman remains an aristocratic fiddler with a brilliant and honeyed tone, sharp articulation, and unflagging communicative skills. He made Schubert's slight but touching rondo vibrate with charm. And, with Ohyama as his irrepressible, virtuosic and handsomely matched partner, he restored all joy and poignancy to the Sinfonia Concertante.

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